Theo Walcott always comes across as a player that frustrates us Arsenal fans. He always tends to get the easy things wrong yet can do the fantastic right. Just looking back at the Tottenham game, the one moment where he had a bad touch but still managed a cheeky chip to score his goal summarised very nicely the basis of his career at Arsenal.
First of all I want to objectively compare Walcott to the other Wingers on the Premier league so we have a better picture of how good Walcott actually is. Let’s look at his raw stats for this season:
Walcott has achieved 8 goals and 9 assists this season in 32 appearances. Not bad for someone criticised as one of our worst players and baited as our next departure for the summer.
Gervinho (our other winger) has come in at 4 goals and 5 assists for 18 appearances. Pretty good for someone in their first year in the Premier league. If you was to mathematically scale up Gervinho’s stats in respect to appearances, he would have the nearly the same goal/assist count.
Looking at players from different teams:
Bale has amassed 9 goals and 7 assists for Spurs in 24 games. Considerably better than Walcott pitching in 4 more goals. However, in comparison to the press they both receive, the measly 4 goals between them do not justify the difference in praises they both get. Bale is seen as one of the best players in the world (by the press) and to be honest, I’ve watched him quite a few times including Sunday and he isn’t anything special. People crack on about him like he’s the next Ronaldo or Messi, nowhere near them. If anything he’s considerably closer to Walcott than any of the better Wingers in the world.
Nani has achieved 6 goals and 8 assists, merely 2 more goals/assists than Walcott in as many games. Yet people bare comparison with him and Ronaldo. No thanks.
Sinclair has 7 goals and one assist from 26 appearances. He has been hailed by many as the future England winger. Considered by many as a better alternative than Walcott yet his statistics don’t reflect it. He has 4 less goals/assists than Walcott. Being the same age as him he doesn’t really have anything over Walcott. Maybe being more clinical but that’s it. He also plays for a team that loves to attack as we learnt when we faced Swansea so there is no real argument when it comes to Walcott playing for a top 4 side.
These players under the media have all been praised beyond belief including others with considerably worse statistics than Walcott. It is unfair that Walcott is constantly criticised for poor performances when he has the same or better stats than his counterparts.
Analysing his actual game, he is known for his pacey wing play as well as dribbling pretty well to get past his man. However, he is berated by the media constantly and even by fans because of the lack of a ‘final’ product. My comparison of the top wingers in the EPL proves my point that he is actually pretty good for a winger. He has an end product which has resulted in 8 goals and 9 assists. Obviously this end product could be better as I’ve seen him play and there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Even then, only at the tender age of 22, he has a good 4-5 years before he hits his peak. There is still a lot of time to learn.
If I was to pick one thing that Walcott severely lacks is his decision making. The pass to Van Persie in the first half on Sunday proved that he isn’t great at thinking and assessing a situation correctly. He needs to correct this as in overall technique, he’s great. It’s just deciding what technique to use is what could cost him his claim to fame as an Arsenal legend.
After looking at all the external factors, the growing realisation is, that Walcott isn’t a bad player; he is in fact a very good player. His affiliation to England and how he went from going to the World cup in 2006 to being dumped from the squad in 2010 has added extraordinary amounts of pressure on such a young person. He is always been under pressure from the media and it has translated to the fans that are supposed to support him through thick and thin. It is no surprise he can’t reach his full potential when something so heavy is on his shoulders every day. He needs some sort of freedom or way to express his true stance and feelings on the situation. The English media are notorious for hyping up players so much that they tend to self-destruct. Walcott is nowhere near that but he could end up that way if we continue to pile on pressure on a player that actually delivers (2nd most goals for Arsenal after Van Persie this season).
I conclude that Walcott is still important to Arsenal and needs to be kept. He has the potential to be great if we allow him to play his game with freedom and no expectation. He is still too young to have such a burden on him and if anything we are stunting his growth. I do hope that Wenger protects other English players in: Wilshere, Gibbs, Chamberlain, Lansbury etc because it’s a slippery slope once the media start a hype that will never live down regardless of how you develop as a player.
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